Is AP® Statistics Hard? | (2024)

So you are thinking about taking AP® Statistics, and you are wondering how much work it will be. Or maybe you’ve already signed up and you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Either way, we know how difficult it is to figure out just how much work a class will take, and know whether or not it is worth the effort.

Here at we’ve got you covered with the full story on AP® Statistics difficulty, plenty of review information, study guides, and plenty of practice questions. In the following article, you’ll get a full AP® Stats review, including what the AP® Stats Exam is, whether you should take the exam, insight intoAP® Stats difficulty, and how the exam is scored. We’ll also throw in some links to info about the best study guides and practice questions.

First, let’s take a look at what the AP® Stats Exam is.

What is the AP® Statistics Exam?

AP® Exams provide top high school students the chance to study college-level course material and perform college-level coursework while still in high school to gain the skills they will need in college. If the student demonstrates that he or she has mastered the material, more than 90% of four-year colleges or universities in the US will reward his or her efforts by providing real credits that take the place of a college course.

All AP® classes are a step above regular classes in difficulty, and AP® Statistics is no exception. But before we dive into the specifics of AP® Stats difficulty, the first thing we will cover in our AP® Stats review is whether it’s a good idea for you to take the AP® Stats Exam in the first place.

Should You Take the AP® Statistics Exam?

Is AP® Statistics Hard? | (1)

Let’s weigh the pros and cons. On the negative side, AP® Exams are difficult and require a lot of time and effort. The AP® Statistics Exam is no easier than any other AP® Exam. There is also a fee involved, to cover the costs associated with administering and scoring the exams. This fee is listed online at $93 per exam.

On the other hand, the benefits of taking AP® Statistics include developing skills like hypothesis testing and statistical literacy that will not only help you with science classes you take in college but also for the rest of your life. And depending on how much your college will charge per credit hour, there’s a good chance that being able to waive a semester-long college statistics class for less than $100 will end up saving you gobs of money in the long run.

In general, taking an AP® Statistics class is a challenge, but well worth the effort in the long run. And if you have already invested the time and energy to taking an AP® Stats class, it would be a waste not to buckle up and take the AP® Stats Exam.

What’s the AP® Statistics Exam Like?

The AP® Statistics Exam is a three-hour test with two separate sections. The first section is a 90-minute multiple-choice section with a total of 40 questions. The second section is a 90-minute free-response section with a total of six problems to be solved: Five free response questions and one investigative task. Graphing calculators are allowed on the exam, and students are encouraged to use them.

Both sections count equally towards the overall score you are given, from 1-5. The score you get is standardized across all the students who took the exam at the same time as you, and colleges generally offer credit for all scores above a 2. Unless you have a special extension from CollegeBoard, the AP® Stats Exam usually takes place during the second week of May. The exams are then scored, and scores are usually released during the first or second week of July. (Make sure you keep this timeline in mind when you are preparing your AP® Statistics study guide!)

Next, we will continue our AP® Statistics review and get right down to talking about AP® Stats difficulty.

How Difficult is AP® Statistics?

Now it’s not so easy to give a straightforward answer to the question of AP® Statistics difficulty. Every student has strengths and weaknesses, and every school does too. Here we will break down AP® Stats difficulty into several different components, including average scores, the difficulty of the content, the skills required, and how easy it is to balance AP® Stats with other aspects of your life.

It is easy to say what percentage of students taking the AP® Statistics Exam scored in a high range. Here is a chart of the percentage of people who got each of the five possible scores on the AP® Stats Exam over the last five years.


As you can see, a high percentage of students earn scores of 3, 4, or 5 on the AP® Statistics Exam. In fact, across all five years, an average of 59% of test-takers earned a score of 3, 4, or 5. This means that almost 3 out of every five students taking the AP® Stats Exam have the potential to earn college credit.

These rates compare favorably to other popular AP® Exams, but every student is different. While it might be easier for some students to get a high score on the AP® Statistics Exam, it could be easier for others to score highly on the AP® Biology Exam or the AP® US History Exam.

Let’s continue our discussion of AP® Statistics difficulty by talking about the specific content that is covered on the AP® Stats Exam.

Course Content

The content on the AP® Statistics Exam centers around four major themes. These are:

  1. Exploring Data: Describing patterns and outliers in datasets
  2. Sampling & Experimentation: Planning and conducting statistical analyses
  3. Anticipating Patterns: Using probability and simulation to explore random events
  4. Statistical Inference: Hypothesis Testing and estimating population parameters

You should make sure to include each of these themes in your AP® Statistics study guide. If you are interested in what these sections specifically include, you can check out pages 10-14 of the CollegeBoard AP® Statistics course description (pg. 11).

Let’s continue our discussion of AP® Statistics difficulty by talking more broadly about what skills are required to be successful on the test.

Skills Required

As with most AP® Exams, getting a good score on the AP® Statistics Exam is more than just memorizing facts and figures. In fact, the real AP® Statistics difficulty lies not in how much you can memorize, but rather in your ability to perform statistical reasoning. Let’s look at each skill you will need for the exam individually:

  1. Arithmetic: AP® Statistics does not require a whole lot of complex math – certainly no calculus. But you will be using a lot of equations, so a general “number sense” is a great help, and will help towards lowering overall AP® Stats difficulty.
  2. Graphical Literacy: There is a lot of graphing involved in AP® Statistics. What we mean here is the ability to look at a graph and gain a good sense for what information is expressed there. This is the kind of thing tested on the ACT® Science section, for example.
  3. Statistical Reasoning: This is the primary skill that you will work on at every single stage of your AP® Statistics class. In short, this is the ability to use appropriate statistical language when describing your findings. For example, “At a 95% confidence level, we may reject the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis.”
  4. Trial and Error: While you may think it strange to consider this a “skill,” the fact is that AP® Statistics practice problems sometimes require a “plug and chug” approach. This means the ability to keep on trying new solutions until you find one that works.

Some of these skills are things that differ from person to person: For example, some people believe that they are more “math people,” and some people don’t. However, each of these four skills can be developed throughout the course of an AP® Statistics class.

Let’s continue our discussion of AP® Statistics difficulty to talk about how you can balance AP® Statistics with your other work.

Finding Balance

Is AP® Statistics Hard? | (2)

For many students taking AP® classes, it can be difficult to know how many is too many. It’s very common for highly motivated students to overload themselves with so many classes that their performance suffers in all of them.

When you are considering taking AP® Statistics, try to think holistically about all the factors that are involved in AP® Statistics difficulty. Consider the following questions:

  • How many other courses are you taking? How difficult are they?
  • Do you feel that you have the skills described above?
  • What is the quality of your school’s math department? Is there help available?
  • Do you know your school’s AP® Statistics teacher? Is he/she a good teacher?
  • If your school is not going to offer you enough resources, do you feel confident that you can supplement your classroom learning with additional studying on your own?

Remember that even though most AP® classes last for an entire year, you still need to take all of your AP® Exams over the course of one or two weeks. Make sure that you have a plan for how many AP® classes you plan on taking before deciding whether or not you the AP® Statistics difficulty would be too much.

So now that you have a general idea of AP® Statistics difficulty let’s continue our AP® Statistics review to discuss what your score on the AP® Statistics Exam really means.

What Does Your Score on the AP® Statistics Exam Mean?

Most colleges don’t offer college credit for a score below a three. Some colleges only offer credit for fours and fives. But regardless of the score that you get, try to keep things in perspective. Check out CollegeBoard’s grading system for AP® scores:

  • 5 – Extremely Well Qualified – Equivalent to an A in the corresponding college course
  • 4 – Well Qualified – Equivalent to grades of A–, B+ and B in college.
  • 3 – Qualified – Equivalent to grades of B–, C+ and C in college.
  • 2 – Possibly Qualified
  • 1 – No Recommendation.

Getting a three – the average score on the AP® Statistics exam (or the median score, for you statistics experts!) – is equivalent to getting a low B or a high C in a college course. That’s nothing to sneeze at for a junior or senior in high school!

And even if you didn’t receive the score you wanted or expected, that doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person, and it doesn’t even mean that you won’t get college credit! Every college has a policy on what scores they will accept for college credit, and you can find these policies online.

Normalized Scores

Also, remember that your AP® Statistics scores are normalized, and the number you get from 1-5 is relative to how everyone else did. So it’s not just about how many questions you get right or wrong, rather it’s about how you do compared to every other student who took the same test that you did. So if CollegeBoard decides to include a really difficult new free response question on the Exam that you take – don’t worry! Everybody will probably struggle with it just as much as you did.

Normalizing scores also keeps things consistent. As you can see in the graph above, the percentage of people who earned each score has remained very consistent for the last five years of AP® Statistics tests. CollegeBoard normalizes scores specifically so that roughly the same percentage of students gets each score. This means that if someone got a five in 2015, it means the same thing as someone who got a five in 2012.

So don’t worry: with normalized scores, you don’t have to get every question correct. You just have to do generally better than most other people who take the Exam. And remember, no matter what score you get, the skills and experience you gain in AP® Statistics will continue to serve throughout the rest of high school, college, and for the rest of your life.

Next Steps

So now that you understand all about AP® Statistics difficulty and have a good handle on what your score means let’s think about what you should do next.

If you are on the fence about whether to take AP® Statistics, check out the “Should You Take the AP® Statistics Exam?” section above, and give it some serious thought. If you are already enrolled in an AP® Statistics class for next year, or if you are in the thick of your class and getting ready to take the AP® Statistics Exam, then it’s time to take about AP® Statistics review.

Studying for the AP® Statistics Exam

Once you’ve got a few months of AP® Statistics under your belt, and you’ve got a good understanding of what the real AP® Statistics difficulty will be for you, then you’re ready to start studying. Studying for the AP® Statistics Exam should involve two primary things: an AP® Statistics study guide, and lots of AP® Statistics practice questions.

We’ve got you covered here at with all the resources you will need to study for the AP® Statistics Exam when the time comes, including tips for developing a killer AP® Statistics study guide, plenty of AP® Statistics review, a boatload of AP® Statistics practice questions, and lots of additional resources.

Now let’s take a look at a practice AP® Statistics question to give you a small taste of the type of material that will be covered on the AP® Statistics Exam.

Practice Question

Consider a data set of positive values, at least two of which are not equal. Which of the following sample statistics will be changed when each value in this data set is multiplied by a constant whose absolute value is greater than 1?
  1. The mean
  2. The median

III. The standard deviation

(a) I only

(b) II only

(c) III only

(d) I and II only

(e) I, II, and III

In this AP® Statistics practice question, the best approach is to both reason out the answer using statistical reasoning and also to plug and chug, just to make sure. Let’s define a simple data set as {1, 2, 3}. Now the problem says to multiply each value in the set by a constant greater than one. Let’s multiply each number in the set by two, to give us {2, 4, 6}. With this simple example, we can clearly see that the mean and median have both changed – from [2] to [4]. So we know that sample statistics I and II are both changed.

But to find out if sample statistic III changes, there’s no need to go into the detail of calculating the standard deviation. Using our basic statistical knowledge, we know that standard deviation is a measure of how distant individual values in a set are from the mean. In the first set, the first and third values were only one digit away from the mean. In the second set, the same values were two digits away from the mean. Therefore, we know that all three sample statistics will be different and that the answer must then be (e).

Looking forAP® Statistics practice?

Kickstartyour AP® Statistics prepwith Albert. Start your AP® exam prep today.

Is AP® Statistics Hard? | (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Prof. Nancy Dach

Last Updated:

Views: 6214

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Prof. Nancy Dach

Birthday: 1993-08-23

Address: 569 Waelchi Ports, South Blainebury, LA 11589

Phone: +9958996486049

Job: Sales Manager

Hobby: Web surfing, Scuba diving, Mountaineering, Writing, Sailing, Dance, Blacksmithing

Introduction: My name is Prof. Nancy Dach, I am a lively, joyous, courageous, lovely, tender, charming, open person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.